GE14 lost if Barisan still fails to impress young voters, warns Sabbaruddin Chik

by Md Izwan
The Malaysian Insider
May 29, 2014

Barisan Nasional (BN) will lose Putrajaya in the 14th general election (GE14) if young voters remain unimpressed with the coalition and its handling of issues such as corruption and transparency, warns former Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Sabbaruddin Chik.

He said the younger generation was no longer stupid, and Umno and BN were in for an unprecedented nightmare should Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his administration carry on without any meaningful reforms.

“In the next general election, I am worried that if we do nothing, we will face bigger problems… most of the Generation Y are not with us,” Sabbaruddin told The Malaysian Insider.

The Election Commission (EC) said in 2013 that 70% of the estimated 4.2 million unregistered voters were between the ages of 21 and 40. Some 450,000 Malaysians turn 21 each year, the eligible voting age in the country.

Sabbaruddin did not rule out the possibility that BN would lose half the seats it managed to cling to in last year’s general election, which already saw the ruling coalition lose the popular vote in its worst polls showing in history.

“If there are no serious changes, we will lose half. Now, (we have lost the) two-thirds (majority),” said the veteran politician who served as the Umno secretary-general in 1996.

“Corruption, leakages and transparency must be emphasised,” he said, adding that these were the main factors behind the youths’ rejection of BN.

The Auditor-General’s annual report has laid bare the government’s leakages under the Najib administration since he took over from Tun Abdullah Badawi in 2009.

The latest report exposed several ministries’ huge mismanagement of funds in 2013, which ran contrary to Najib’s cry for transformation since he took over the country’s reins.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was forced to haul up five ministries to clarify the financial discrepencies reported in exhaustive detail in the first edition of the Auditor-General Report 2013.

Anti-graft watchdog Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) released a report in 2013 showing Malaysia had improved its ranking by just one notch, up from 54 in 2012 to 53.

Malaysia’s rank has not run tangent with the prime minister’s call for transformation.

As BN’s appeal among the youth continues to slip, the opposition coalition has seized the opportunity to shore up support among the sizeable vote bank.

Young, first-time voters were vital in boosting the loose coalition of DAP, PKR and PAS’s presence in Parliament after the 2008 general election. The EC has registered 2.4 million new voters in 2013 or 30% of the electorate.

In this Saturday’s Teluk Intan by-election, DAP said victory hinged on the young voters, and has launched the “Jom Balik Undi” campaign to encourage them to return to the constituency to cast their votes for their young candidate, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud.

Should Dyana defeat BN’s older, more experienced candidate, Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong, it would be the third blow to BN after it lost the Bukit Gelugor and Kajang by-elections this year.

Sabbaruddin said only luck had helped Najib remain in power until now, although his leadership had led BN to its worst showing in the 13th general election last year.

“Najib was lucky because he took over from Pak Lah,” said Sabbarudin, referring to Abdullah by his popular moniker.

“If Najib had taken over from Dr Mahathir (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad), he would have had to resign as well. Najib may be lucky, but he cannot rely on luck forever,” he added.

Abdullah was forced to step down in 2009 following pressure from the longest-serving prime minister and other Umno leaders, after BN lost its two-thirds majority in the historic 2008 general election.

He was succeeded by Najib, whose populist policies did not translate to a bigger win in the GE13. But without any calls for him to resign, Malaysia’s sixth prime minister remained in power, although initially rumours had swirled that he might be replaced.

Sabbarudin also said it was not right for BN to have pressured Abdullah to step down.

“Pak Lah was unlucky as he took over from Dr Mahathir, who was still very powerful at that time,” he added.

He also said that the lack of potential successors in Umno was another reason why no one dared to push Najib to resign.

“Najib is lacking, but no one told him to step down. It is not because they are complacent or are not interested in having him replaced.

“Umno members are afraid: if Najib is forced to resign, who can replace him?” said Sabbarudin.

A year after GE13, Najib’s administration appears weak, its operations stymied. Political observers and critics say it is due to the election results.

Najib officially received his mandate after BN won 133 out of the 222 Parliamentary seats in GE 13 – a hollow victory for the ruling coalition as it lost seven more seats than the 2008 polls, as well as the popular support of Malaysians.

The prime minister is now struggling with pressure and the unending racial and religious conflicts plaguing Malaysia, made worse by extremist groups like Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) and Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa (Perkasa).

The groups have made a mockery of Najib’s call for an inclusive Malaysia, and critics say their existence stems from the weakness in Najib’s own administration. – May 29, 2014.

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